How’s it Growing? Early Spring Wicking Bed Update

How’s it Growing? Early Spring Wicking Bed Update

Well, it’s been a bit of time since my last update about my wicking bed projects this year so I though I’d give a little early spring update on how things are growing.

If you remember from my last wicking bed post, I installed this first lovely bed at my friend’s house on March 7:

Well, here it is 5 weeks later:

Photo credit: Krista Garbutt 

Look at all those delicious looking greens! You are seeing a variety of mustard greens and baby salad greens, with a few green onions and pea shoots hiding in between. Her family will be able to start eating those baby greens any time now and for the next couple weeks.

As an interesting comparison, here is my Women’s Transition House wicking bed that was planted one week earlier:

My bed still has reasonable growth, but it’s been a bit slower. Why? Microclimates. My friend’s bed is tucked into a south-east facing protected side of her house. It doesn’t get a lot of wind and the house keeps the bed a little warmer. Hence, those little baby plants are nice and happy in their nursery bed and are growing steadily. My garden is a little more exposed and gets a lot of cool wind sweeping up the hill from the ocean.

Here’s a few other things I have found that are working well and not so well with my wicking bed experiments this year:

What’s working well?

No slugs!

I planted the same blends of mustards and mescluns in my own persoanl 4’x4′ garden bed (NOT one of these wicking beds) at the beginning of March. Everything germinated nicely, but I didn’t quite make it out quick enough with the beer traps and the slugs had an evening feast.

The wicking beds, on the other hand, have had ZERO SLUG DAMAGE. I think this is because they are raised well above ground and the slugs just can’t get to them. I’ll never say never, but so far so good! This is so exciting – slugs are usually my nemesis in the garden in this cool and wet early spring weather. I’m so relieved not to have to battle them in the wicking beds.

Good working height

Another thing I am really pleased with in the wicking beds is the working height. They are raised about a foot an a half off the ground and that makes them really comfortable for planting, peeking, and (soon) picking. There is no uncomfortable squatting or kneeling when working in these beds, which my back really thanks me for.

Easy watering

The watering needs have been minimal so far this spring, mostly thanks to mother nature. The first week or two after seeding I sprinkled the surface with the hose to keep the soil surface nice and damp for good germination. Since then we’ve had a nice combination of rain showers and sun and I haven’t needed to give my bed any supplemental water.

Early Harvests

It’s so exciting to be able to get an early spring harvest from the garden. Of course perennial and overwintered plants such as kale, parsley, sorrel, arugula, and miner’s lettuce can bring an early harvest as well. These wicking beds, however, were newly built and seeded just last month and they are already almost ready to offer a first harvest. These mustard and mesclun blends are meant to be harvested about 45 days after planting and I think my harvests will meet that specification precisely.

What’s not working so well?

There’s a few minor aesthetic design changes I’ll make if/when I install more of these beds. I’ll be experimenting with different types of liners for the beds too. I’m also looking for someone to work with to construct the beds. While I love working with my hands, my passion is gardening, not construction. I think in the future I’d love to share this kind of project with someone who gains the same joy from working with wood as I do from working in the soil.

Want to read more about my wicking beds and my Women’s Transistion House project this year? Read all the posts here: Wicking Beds and Women’s Transition House.

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